Saturday, November 26, 2005

Current Policies of the Republican Party and Christian Right

Republican Budget Bill Savages the Poor
By Max J. Castro
Progreso Weekly 24-30 November 2005 Edition

They are at it again. Anyone who hoped that the images of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, which made the extent of squalor in America visible and dramatized the life-and-death consequences of inequality, would stir the conscience of our ruling party was wrong. Dead wrong. Last week, after suffering the embarrassing defeat of its main budget proposal, the Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives managed to push through $50 billion in cuts to "domestic discretionary spending." That is code for programs such as food stamps, health care for poor children, the indigent elderly and the disabled, student loans, and foster care. These are the last remnants of the frayed, flimsy safety net that this society - the least generous of any rich nation toward its disadvantaged - provides the most vulnerable among us.

Who the targets of the spending reductions are is crystal clear. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ( reports that the GOP bill just approved would "deny food stamps to more than 220,000 low-income people each month by 2008, and would cut basic food aid by nearly $700 million over five years." Perhaps anticipating that many of the poor might get sick because of malnutrition, the House measure would also "allow states to impose substantial new co-payment and premium fees on millions of low-income Medicaid beneficiaries, and to scale back substantially the health care services that the Medicaid program provides." What do Republicans have against poor people that they so persistently and savagely seek to punish them even in the face of the kind of evident suffering revealed by the catastrophic events of New Orleans?

The question is more vexing when one considers that the vast majority of Republican members of Congress proclaim themselves staunch Christians, yet their policy choices consistently contradict fundamental tenets of the faith. In 1986, for example, the US Catholic bishops proclaimed: "As individuals and as a nation ... we are called to make a fundamental 'option for the poor.' The obligation to evaluate social and economic activity from the viewpoint of the poor and the powerless arises from the radical command to love one's neighbor as one's self. Those who are marginalized and whose rights are denied have privileged claims if society is to provide justice for all. This obligation is deeply rooted in Christian belief." William Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans, further defines this option for the poor, which the bishops consider to be deeply rooted in Christian, and not merely Catholic, belief: "The preferential option for the poor means several things: maintaining solidarity with the poor and powerless; viewing and evaluating all economic, political and institutional action and institutions from the perspective of the poor; and having an ongoing commitment to action on behalf of justice."

The 'Christian' Republicans who run Congress and the 'Christian' president who sits in the White House consistently turn this fundamental Christian principle exactly on its head. They do so not only through budget cuts that savage the poor but also through lavish tax cuts that benefit the rich. If the Republicans wanted to reduce the bloated federal budget deficit - the reason Republicans claim we need to cut domestic programs - they could do so in a more effective way and one that would be consistent with their professed faith. Canceling two tax cuts for the rich slated to take effect January 1, 2006 alone would save about $70 billion. That's 40 percent more than would be saved by gutting social programs.

Instead, in order to give the greediest a huge New Year's gift, the Republicans are willing to strike a devastating blow against the neediest and add $20 billion to the deficit. So much for fiscal Christian charity and fiscal conservatism! What makes the situation even more egregious is the extent to which the Bush tax policy already showers the rich with colossal gifts. Once more, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "The highly respected Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center reports that households with incomes of more than $1 million a year - the richest 0.2 percent of the US population - already are receiving tax cuts averaging $103,000 this year, before these two new tax cuts take effect. The Tax Policy Center finds that the two tax-cut measures in question will give these 'millionaires' nearly another $20,000 a year in tax cuts, when the measures are phased in fully." In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII asserted that "rights must be religiously respected wherever they are found ... Still, when there is question of protecting the rights of individuals, the poor and helpless have a claim to special consideration."

Why is Rep. Rick Santorum, that paragon of Catholic virtue, not resigning from the Republican Party? Perhaps Santorum and other 'Christians' reason that since the rich are as likely to attain heaven as a camel to enter the eye of a needle, it is the Christian duty of the Republican Party to provide them the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. The latest Republican attack against the "poor and defenseless" was so cruel and brazen that 14 Republicans withstood withering pressure from their party's leaders in the House and voted their conscience in opposition. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, that champion of Little Havana's viejitos, was not among them. What business does Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose district includes few millionaires but many poor senior citizens and children who will be the main victims of the perverted priorities embodied in the Republican budget, have voting for these shameful cuts?


At 2:43 PM, Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

Over on The Christian Prophet blog today Jesus takes Christian socialists seriously to task. His message would probably contradict a few of your points.

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